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Houston Hangover: A History

What is happening to the Oakland Raiders? Six years is more than enough time to rebuild a team especially with a few top draft picks.

After drafting a quarterback. runningback and receiver high in the first-round the last three years, the offense actually looks worse.

Normally the easiest thing to point out would be a complete lack of draft picks used on offensive lineman. In this case, the team uses the zone blocking system which is one in which you don't need to spend top picks on lineman.

It is possible to fault the team for failing to bring in players that do fit that scheme. Mario Henderson and Robert Gallery are the only two players on the line that have been consistently above average.

For as many problems as this team has, the defense doesn't look like one of them. Has the defense been great? Not by a mile, but compared to the disease that is the Raiders offense, the defense is Penicillin. Too bad the disease is so bad the defense simply can't overcome those deficiencies.

Raider Nation has been more than patient with the rebuild process. There is an expectation that it might take five years. Obviously, the fanbase grew impatient as the rebuild dragged into a sixth season, along with the usual (or unusual?) Raiders antics complete with overhead projector.

Many fans contested the rebuild had already taken too long and it was. Coaching was the problem, according to Al Davis and some loyal fans. I just don't buy it.

Callahan destroyed the locker room and it may not have recovered since that time - When Tim Brown is upset with the coach something is up. The first sign was the complete butt whipping in the Super Bowl. The last was his "Stupidest Team in America" comments.

Norv Turner came in as the last self-respecting coach the Raiders had the opportunity to hire. He consistently looked like a dog had eaten his lunch. Al Davis had regained his total power over the franchise with the departure of Bruce Allen. He never got rolling and during his tenure the Raiders and the drafting was borderline horrific as the roster completed the aging process. Turner's lack of head coaching abilities were on display and have never really improved having taken a talented roster down the toilet in San Diego.

In comes Art Shell, the rehired renegade. Restore the Raider way, old school. He brought with him the infamous bed & breakfast offense. The talent was depleted, the locker room in disarray. Shell didn't have chance to succeed. Not that he necessarily would have, but there was nothing to work with and he was living in the past. Years of being the Rooney rule punching bag, Shell's once friendly relationship with Al Davis was potentially ruined forever. One season of absolute chaos. If Norv turner was your mom, Art Shell was a drill sergeant. Al Davis may have finally realized his team lacked talent, believing before that he had a playoff team.

So what does Davis do? Now there isn't a coordinator in the league that will take the job. He goes to USC, where he hopes to pluck a guy from the Pete Carroll USC coaching tree. Sarkisian being the primary target. Instead, Al Davis opts (or is forced) to go with the young Lane Kiffin. Kiffin was the next Gruden. He was a young gun, a phenom, a great football mind.

Wrong again. Kiffin used Davis and the team, never had much intention of staying past his contract. He was no phenom. He had a split locker room partly because Al Davis forced Rob Ryan to stick around as his defensive puppet master. The smarter fans were skeptical from the outset, Kiffin's fraud won over some fans, but not others. The Kiffin way was anti-Davis. According the Kiffin, the talent level was horrible, Mario Henderson wasn't ever close and the Raiders weren't a playoff team. Unfortunately for the Raiders, he was probably right more than half the time.

Al Davis biggest mistake was sticking with Kiffin so he didn't have to pay him. Not only was it a mistake for the football team, everyone knew Kiffin was on his way out. The action told the league that Davis is the head coach and anyone who takes the job must fall in line with the wishes of Al Davis. Now, the team would have to reach really deep for their next coach.

In comes offensive line guru Tom Cable. Cable, had single-handedly turned around the offensive line. Could he do the same with the team? Maybe, as the fans were given a glimmer of hope as the Raiders playing for nothing but pride and bounced back under Tom Cable, winning a few games down the stretch. JaMarcus Russell even looked good at times (although he also looked very bad at times).

Headed into the seventh year of the rebuild there was some hope. Rob Ryan was gone, the entire staff turned over. Asomugha and Lechler signed on.

Then came the draft. Oakland's selections were scorned. Who could blame them? Sulak was dropped before camp. Mike Mitchell had a hamstring issue all offseason. Then Burgess was traded after a holdout and the important third preseason game was a disaster.

Seymour was brought in under strange circumstances and only decided to show up only after Al Davis dispatched loyal ex-raider Zack Crockett to his house.

Quickly the glimmer of hope had faded. It was now cautious optimism. That hope returned during a gutsy Monday Night Football debut. Moral victories be damned.

The Raiders headed to Kansas City and the Raiders were a trendy pick. The hope was back, the team was back and Russell's debut was a fluke.

The Raiders escaped KC with a victory, but the hope again faded and cautious optimism returned. Questions started to pop-up. The fans thought Paul Hackett was supposed to do wonders with JaMarcus Russell. Is Russell a bust? What about the last drive?

Heading home for Denver was supposed to cure something. Russell would bounce back, right? Bad games happen, look forward. Denver whooped the Raiders. They came into the Raiders house and outplayed them in every way possible.

The glimmer of hope now long gone and the cautious optimism smashed into the gut of Raider Nation. The boos rained down on Russell. A symbol of the six plus years of frustration the fans have endured. If the boos didn't say it, the quarter empty stadium did.

Houston on the road could have been redemption ground. Russell killed them last year. They couldn't stop the run. The few fans that could still stand to watch witnessed another complete destruction of the Raiders team.

Symbolically, the biggest burden was placed on Russell. He is a bust and a terrible quarterback. We will never win with Russell they said. They may be right, if he can't stop going to clubs the night before games and drinking himself into a stupor.

Blame Russell? The line is in shambles, the receivers are rookies and Todd Watkins is getting the snaps as the third receiver over Higgins and Walker. Chris Johnson doesn't get why the Raiders don't let the veterans in to help Russell.

The locker room could get out of hand quickly if the Raiders don't start winning games and with the next four games against the Giants, Eagles, Jets and Chargers, the Raiders could go into the bye at 1-7.

If the players don't show up this week in New Jersey, the fans shouldn't show up next week in Oakland. I don't believe an organized protest in necessary, if the Raiders don't show up this week, a Raiders ticket will be as valuable as Enron stock and the employees that own it would be more than happy to walk out on their own.


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